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New Balance Falmouth Road Race
“Falmouth Five” to Run Their 40th New Balance Falmouth Road Race
Brain Surgery, Injuries & Trips to Japan Haven’t Stopped Streak
August 2, 2011, Falmouth, MA – When the gun goes off in Woods Hole, Massachusetts on August 12, 2012, to start the New Balance Falmouth Road Race, Michael Bennett, Tom Brannelly, Don Delinks, Ron Pokraka and Brian Salzberg will start the trek to Falmouth Heights for the 40th time. They are the only people who have run every single Falmouth Road Race without a miss, including the very first one on a rainy Wednesday in 1973. The first “Falmouth Marathon” was held on race founder Tommy Leonard’s birthday and raised funds for the Falmouth girls track team.
“This year, The New Balance Falmouth Road Race celebrates its 40 year history and part of that rich history is our Falmouth Five,” said Dave McGillivray, Race Director. “As a runner with my own 40 year streak going at the Boston Marathon, I can fully appreciate what this feat signifies. The durability and commitment of these men is amazing and we all applaud them!”
In 1973, except for Bennett and Salzberg, the five didn’t know each other and certainly never expected that 7-mile race would start them on the road to a 40-year unbroken streak, camaraderie and close friendships. For Delinks and Salzberg, the race was their first when they lined up in front of the Captain Kidd with Tommy Leonard and 90 others.
“Frank Shorter won the marathon in Munich in 1972 and inspired me to start running for the first time,” remembers Delinks, now 74. “This was my first race, but I went on to do 9 marathons and even encouraged my kids to run. All six of my kids have run this race.”
“The first year was very unique. It was so cold, and rainy with the temperatures in the high 40s-low 50s and very windy,” continued Salzberg. “We finished at Brothers Four all sweat-drenched for the party. I still remember Johnny Kelley in his Hawaiian shirt jitterbugging.”
For Brannelly, he not only remembers the race’s beginning but also title sponsor, New Balance’s beginning. “In 1972, with a stress fracture from running, I needed to replace my $5 sneakers,” recalls Brannelly. “A friend told me about a running shoe operation in Belmont. I found the small place, which seemed like a garage, and got a pair of shoes that looked like a bowling shoe with a ripple sole and ripple heal glued to the bottom. They were like running on a cloud. This was New Balance.”
After 7-8 years, the men started to understand that there were only 6 of them who had run each race. This elite group stayed that way until Johnny Kelley stopped running the race after 25 years. That same year, they started another tradition, a post-race party at Pokraka’s house and, a few years later, most of them kept the weekend going by taking Tommy Leonard to dinner the night after the race. A tradition that lives on to this day.
Life marches on but through the raising of families, trips to Japan that cut a little too close to the race, normal running injuries, a “blown knee” this year and brain surgery last year, the five have always managed to make it to the start line in Woods Hole for the starting gun.
When will the Falmouth Five’s streak end? Pokraka, now 73, isn’t sure, but Salzberg, now 69, hopes to “make it to 50 or 60” and Bennett, now 81, agrees saying, “Why stop now?”
The New Balance Falmouth Road Race will be held August 12, 2013. More information can be found at www.falmouthroadrace.com.
About Falmouth Road Race
The New Balance Falmouth Road Race was established in 1973 and has become one of the premier running events of the summer season. Each year the race draws an international field of Olympians, elite and recreational runners out to enjoy the iconic 7-mile seaside course. The non-profit Falmouth Road Race organization is committed to promoting health and fitness through community programs and philanthropic giving.